by We Are Sikhs — April 27, 2021
“Do not turn around and strike those who strike you with their fists. Kiss their feet and return home.” - Guru Tegh Bahadur
Guru Tegh Bahadur was the 9th Sikh Guru. He was a poet, warrior, and great thinker who even became a scholar on the Sikh, Muslim, and Hindu faiths. The depth of his understanding made him an excellent teacher.
He traveled extensively and was the founder of Anandpur Sahib (the City of Bliss), a place in Punjab, India that has religious importance for the Sikh community.
He is known as “Hind di Chadar” (Protector of Humanity) because of his martyrdom to protect the rights and lives of all Indians from invading armies.
He was known for his forgiveness, devotion to meditation, and is remembered as one of the greatest human rights advocates in history.
Sikhs are encouraged to forgive, and Guru Tegh Bahadur set an incredible example when he forgave his nephew.
After the death of Guru Har Krishan, there was confusion over who the next Guru would be. Many people posed as the ninth Guru to gain wealth and fame. Dhir Mal, Guru Tegh Bahadur’s nephew was one of these imposters.
One day, a rich Sikh trader arrived in Bakala and searched for the True Guru, giving 2 gold coins to the many imposters he met, including Dhir Mal.
Makhan Shah ended up finding Guru Tegh Bahadur, who knew a secret promise Makhan Shah had made to give the True Guru 500 gold pieces if his ship survived a terrible storm.
Guru Tegh Bahadur knew this promise, thus confirming he was the True Guru.
Dhir Mal was infuriated and ordered his men to kill the Guru. During this attack, Guru Tegh Bahadur’s home was looted and he was injured with a musket ball.
Makhan Shah found and captured Dhir Mal and his men, and brought them to the Guru where Sikhs from around Bakala called for Dhir Mal to be punished.
Dhir Mal begged his uncle for forgiveness and Guru Tegh Bahadur asked Makhan Shah to release Dhir Mal and his men, saying, “Do not turn around and strike those who strike you with their fists. Kiss their feet and return home.”
He defined forgiveness for future Sikhs by encouraging them to, “Return the evil done to you with goodness. Do not fill your mind with anger.”
Meditation (Naam Japna):
Before taking on the role of Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur spent 26 years in meditation in Bakala. His discipline and devotion to meditating enabled him to know the promise of Makhan Shah which was the miraculous sign that initiated his time as the ninth Sikh Guru.
During his Guruship, he continued to meditate and was a peaceful and respected voice during a time of unrest in India.
One story of his contemplative nature and faith in meditation begins with Raja Ram Singh being given a nearly impossible task. He was ordered to expand Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s reign into the Ahom region where the people were known to practice dark magic. He asked Guru Tegh Bahadur to come with him.
Guru Tegh Bahadur agreed on the condition that Raja Ram Singh must be willing to make peace with the people of Ahom. Together they set out for Ahom. When they reached the Dhubri River, the women of Ahom tried to destroy Guru Tegh Bahadur and his companions with their incantations and magic.
Each attempt failed to harm Guru Tegh Bahadur who remained meditative through the attack. He kept his thoughts on Waheguru (God) and said, “Meditate on God; this alone shall be of use to you. Abandon your association with Maya (materialism) and take shelter in the sanctuary of God.”
After many spells were cast without doing harm, Guru Tegh Bahadur stood up, grabbed a bow and arrow, and shot the altar from which the women were making their spells. From that moment, their magic ceased working.
The women came to Guru Tegh Bahadur, recognizing something greater than their magic existed with him, and asked for forgiveness. Guru Tegh Bahadur forgave them and was able to help Raja Ram Singh in peaceful conversations with the people of Ahom.
Human Rights and Religious Freedom:
Guru Tegh Bahadur always emphasized the importance of seeking peace and protecting every person. The greatest example of this was his final, ultimate sacrifice.
When Aurangzeb ordered the Hindu Brahmins to convert to Islam or die, they fled to Guru Tegh Bahadur for advice and aid.
Guru Tegh Bahadur recognized that Aurangzeb’s goal was to convert all of India and that it would take extreme strength and sacrifice to stop him.
While Guru Tegh Bahadur thought about the plight of the Brahmins, his son, Gobind Rai (who would later become Guru Gobind Singh), asked his father about the situation. In hearing what was happening, the young boy responded, “Who would be better than you to defend the poor Brahmins?” At that moment, Guru Tegh Bahadur realized what needed to be done.
He told the Brahmins to make a deal with Aurangzeb. If he could convert Guru Tegh Bahadur, they would also convert, but they would remain Hindu and be left to live in peace if he failed.
Guru Tegh Bahadur was arrested, tortured, and watched his companions die by torture at the hands of the Mughals, but remained firm in his faith.
When he would not convert or perform any miracles to save himself or convince Aurangzeb to let him go. Eventually, Aurangzeb gave up and had Guru Tegh Bahadur beheaded.
He sacrificed himself to protect people of a different faith because their religious freedom and the human rights of all were more important to him than his own life. Sikhs today continue the devotion for caring for all of mankind and are encouraged to protect those in need at any cost.
Guru Tegh Bahadur passed on the Guruship to his son, Guru Gobind Singh.